Ski Industry News

Top Five Fridays: November 24, 2017

Top Five Fridays - November 24, 2017 // Ski Industry News

#1: Unique Alaskan Ski Area Receives a $500,000 Grant:

Let's kick things off this week with an interesting story out of Alaska, where we've finally caught wind of a really cool ski resort being developed in an area known as Hatcher Pass. Now, typically we don't refer to new ski resort developments as being "really cool," but this time the term fits. The ski area, known as the Hatcher Alpine Xperience (HAX), is a nonprofit organization that's utilizing volunteers and grants to create access to new ski terrain. It's not a large corporation trying to capitalize on untapped land, and it's not even a small mom and pop ski area looking to make money (which, we should mention, is something that we have absolutely no issue with). Instead, it's a very pure, grass roots effort by local skiers and riders to create access to some great terrain. It's a simple model, and one that can't help but make us imagine what skiing must've been like in the early days before it became a full blown industry.

Now, onto what caught our attention. This week, HAX received a $500,000 grant to fund the construction of a new triple chair. That's pretty unique as it's not very often that a ski resort is simply gifted a half a million dollars without any kind of investment or purchase being made. So who has the money and would give it to a new ski area? Well, that's where this story gets even cooler. It turns out that the grant was gifted on behalf of the Mat-Su Health Foundation, an organization dedicated to "improving the health and wellness of Alaskans living in the Mat-Su Valley." As such, the organization determined that what HAX is doing is in the best interest of the health of the Mat-Su Valley residents, resulting in the grant. In a day and age when ski resort talk is ultra-modern and usually consists of terms like "consolidation" or "crowd-funding," it's refreshing to know that there's at least one ski area being built the old fashioned way. For more on this, read this brief article from KTUU News.

#2: Saddleback's Australian Suitor Searching for Funds:

Skiers who've called Saddleback resort home in years past are no doubt anguishing in the uncertainty surrounding the resort. Over the summer, we shared the news that an Australian development firm called Majella had bought Saddleback Resort with the lofty goal of turning it into the "premier ski resort in North America." That was back at the end of June, and now, approximately 5 months later, the transaction of the resort is still being sorted out. This week, local Maine news channel WCSH 6 published an article that dives into the matter a bit more. In short, their conclusion is that it's a monetary matter. According to an unnamed source, the news channel was told, "there is a plan in place to complete the transaction upon the receipt of the funding." Put differently: Majella offered to buy Saddleback for a set price, and they're now scrambling to accumulate adequate funding. According to Sebastian Monsour, the CEO of Majella, the problem isn't that there aren't enough funds to buy the resort, but that they're working on securing funding to also develop the resort and ensure a healthy long term future. Our take: while it's certainly a bummer that the resort may not open in time for this Winter, it's ultimately a responsible choice to make sure there's a cash reserve guaranteeing the long term financial health of the resort. To find out more, read this article from WCSH 6 News.

#3: Ski Villages: Maybe Not the Sign of Success We've All Imagined?:

Top Five Fridays November 24, 2017: Aspen Snowmass Image

An image from Aspen Snowmass's current ski village. Image: Aspen Snowmass's Facebook Page

Earlier this week, the Denver Post published an extremely interesting and insightful look into the reality of ski villages. Both skiers and common folk alike are familiar with the idea of ski villages such as those found in Vail, Whistler, and Aspen. To most, these villages conjure up thoughts of affluence and a very defined type of ski-town culture. The reality of the matter though, is that these ski villages are often far less successful than you'd assume. In the article, author Jason Blevins gets to the truth of the matter and describes an industry that took off in the late 1990's through consumer excitement, but has since been overestimated by real estate companies and developers. In short the problem is this: encouraged by promising initial results, ski resort developers across North America rushed to construct mountain villages anywhere that seemed feasible. Unfortunately, most of these ski villages have had a steady rotation of shops coming and going, as well as a decrease in condo values. In other words, the mountain village real estate model isn't working, despite the hundreds of millions of dollars that've been spent to create them.

While all of that is interesting to consider, the real meat of the article is actually this: in Snowmass, they're taking their approach to development a little differently, and a whole lot slower. Rather than simply popping up numerous condos and attempting to sell potential owners on the idea of mountain life, they're determined to actually create the real thing. Starting with a large hotel and slowly expanding the number of amenities in the area, Snowmass is hoping that it can create a sustainable ski village by creating an actual village in a very organic, unforced type of way. It's a really interesting idea and a cool look into how strategy can be everything. For the full story, we highly encourage you to read the full article from the Denver Post.

#4: World Cup Ski Racing at Killington This Weekend:

Lastly, let's touch base on the World Cup front. Those of us in Vermont are well aware, but for everyone else we'd like to remind you that World Cup ski racing is coming to Killington this weekend! Along with the excitement of having the World Cup return to the Northeast for the second time in as many years, there are also a ton of other exciting story lines to follow at this weekends event. On the women's side, this will be the second event of the season, and all eyes will be on Mikaela Shiffrin. As you might recall, Shiffrin won last year's slalom event at Killington, a feat which she no doubt hopes to repeat. Also in attendance will be Lindsey Vonn who has jut one race under her belt since a duo of injuries kept her out of competition for nearly two years. On the men's side, the excitement will come purely in the form of the first race of the season. Readers of our blog will likely remember that their first event was cancelled due to weather conditions. Regardless of outcomes, it will no doubt prove to be an incredible event if last year's success was any indication. For those interested in checking it out, take a look at this article from that shares some general details about the event, a well as some specifics such as lodging information, event costs, race times, and more.

#5: And Now, Your Edits of the Week:

How Fast Do Ski Racers Really Ski?

For All You Wild and Crazy Kids Out There:


Written by Matt McGinnis on 11/24/17

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